Survey: A Year Into COVID-19, Shoppers Say They Need Better Shipping Updates

Survey: A Year Into COVID-19, Shoppers Say They Need Better Shipping Updates

text message shipping updates

It’s hard to find one area of our daily lives that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t altered (seriously, even toilet paper became a prized commodity), but after a year of living through a global pandemic it’s becoming more obvious what changes were quick fads (sourdough, anyone?) and what’s here to stay. This is vital information for retailers and online stores that are dealing with unprecedented changes to communication.

Our survey revealed that shipping has become more important than ever as shoppers decide where they want to spend their money, and what’s important for them to communicate with brands about. Accurate shipping updates rank as the number one priority for online shoppers during COVID-19, and a majority of consumers (49.45%) say free shipping has the greatest influence over their purchase decisions.   

This trend underscores how important it is for brands to find a simple way to consistently communicate. But, it’s not just sending messages that’s important— it’s sending messages recipients will actually open. The importance shoppers are placing on communication around shipping makes the case for pairing more than one communication method to send the same message. Sending shipping updates by email and text message is a prime example.

Consumer preferences when it comes to communication have changed in other ways a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what our survey revealed. 

Key findings

  • Shopping for shipping: Ecommerce experienced a major boom during the pandemic, but the added cost of shipping can have a major impact on consumer spending. Almost one out of two respondents say free shipping has the greatest influence over where they’ll shop. Survey respondents also ranked accurate shipping updates as their number one priority when shopping online during the pandemic, putting it above the check out experience and even receiving discounts.
  • Don’t be a stage five clinger: Survey respondents say some brands are contacting them too often during the pandemic, when many people are dealing with added pressures in both their professional and personal lives. Respondents ranked this as the number one reason they’ve unsubscribed to branded communication during the pandemic.
  • Money savers: Discounts are the most influential incentive for signing up for email and text lists, consumers say, followed by order updates and news on any service disruptions during the pandemic.
  • Just the facts: Respondents ranked messages that are “quick to read” as their number one priority in digital communications.

One in two say shipping is most important 

In the first 30 days of the pandemic alone, ecommerce spiked as much as 47%, according to Digital Commerce 360, numbers that were backed up by Statistics Canada in July 2020. With the added order volume, many online retailers struggled to keep up with demand, especially in the initial days of the pandemic. 

Survey results show this has caused enough distrust in consumers that they rank accurate shipping updates as the most important aspect of online shopping.

consumer shopping needs statistics
Question: What is the most important aspect of your online shopping experience during COVID-19 (leading up to Valentine’s Day 2021)? Answers were ranked in order of preference.

Brands should be looking to build trust with consumers by conveying their shipping timelines and explicitly stating how and when customers will be contacted with updates about their order. It also helps to give customers a choice of communication method, whether that’s by email, text message or even through less traditional channels such as Facebook Messenger. Keep in mind, by using mass texting services, these communication methods can now be used at scale while remaining personal.

Communicating accurately about shipping helps reduce the negative impact that making the switch from shopping in person has had on some consumers, but that’s not the only way brands can respond to consumer preferences. Almost one in two consumers (49.45%) say free shipping has the greatest influence on where they’ll ultimately spend their money, ranking it above store loyalty and even limited time offers when it comes time to click “purchase.”

Question: What has the biggest influence over where you’ll shop?

Communicating too often is annoying, consumers confirm

Brands often wonder, “how much is too much?” when it comes to communicating with their customers. The answer is that you need to know your audience, since text alert preference varies by demographic. But, this is definitely something brands need to prioritize since getting the answer to that question wrong could have a significant impact for brands as consumers reveal their number one reason for unsubscribing to email and text lists during the COVID-19 pandemic is being contacted too frequently by brands.

Question: What has made you most likely to unsubscribe from branded communications during the COVID-19 pandemic?

When asked how they view branded communications since the pandemic started, about about a third of respondents (35.64%) said they either rarely open branded emails now or are less likely to open branded emails during the pandemic. Brands might need to consider not only how often they’re sending messages, but through which medium. We are seeing a huge adoption of short codes by brands that are gearing up to begin messaging their customers via SMS.

Question: During the pandemic, how has the way you read emails from brands changed?

If you’re new to sending branded communications or aren’t sure what your audience will react to, it’s important to measure unsubscribes after each message you send out. If you notice an uptick when you increase the frequency of your messaging, it might be time to step off the gas pedal and reduce the text messages you send to only your most important. Make sure every message you send is truly bringing value.

Consumers want to hear from you if they’ll save money

Survey respondents say the possibility of snagging a good discount has been the biggest reason they’ve signed up to receive branded communications, such as email newsletters or text messages, from organizations during the pandemic.

Question: What has made you the most likely to sign up for branded communications (text lists, emails) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Not just that, but consumers also rank order updates as one of the top reasons they want to hear from brands, again confirming the importance of finding a platform that sends accurately, timely updates automatically. 

Sometimes, less is more

There are a lot of ways consumers choose to communicate online during the pandemic. When choosing their communication channel of choice, survey respondents ranked receiving messages that are “quick to read, with just the facts” as their top priority, which could lead consumers to navigate away from communication methods that lend themselves to lengthier messages (such as email) in the future. That’s why it’s smart for brands to diversify their communication channels by incorporating SMS marketing and even apps such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

Question: What do you prioritize most about digital communication methods?




Survey methodology:

Results for this survey were conducted online, collecting 1,100 responses on January 13, 2021. Respondents were based in the United States.